Friday, September 25, 2009

Painting Pots Black

This is not to stir up the long running dispute between the pots and the kettles. We're painting pots black so we can use them with the solar cookers we purchased during the week from Solar Cookers International. We've talked to people who work with, make and research solar devices and we've talked to those who want to buy them and use them. Now it's time to go out and demonstrate them and, hopefully, persuade people to part with the $6 or so that they need to invest.

Of course, people need to invest a little time and, god forbid, they need to embrace change, just a tiny bit of change! We can make ourselves some food over the weekend and decide on the best ways to demonstrate these devices. I'm looking forward to it but I'm also a bit apprehensive. After all, much of what I believe about development could be severely tested over the next week or so.

We will be working in and around Nakuru. My colleagues have been working here for some time and they have introduced me to various community support groups. Most of these groups have grown around the need to support people who are HIV positive, people who are directly affected by HIV and, particularly, those who are on antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Some of the groups are very active, with volunteers making regular visits to those who need support of various kinds, who need to be taken to hospital, who are having problems affording school fees or rent and whatever. Many of the groups are already exploring ways of making some money, such as growing and selling fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs and the like. Others make things and sell them.

Solar cookers are a bit different from other activities these groups are involved in. If someone buys a solar cooker, they have the means of saving money they would spend on charcoal. They may save the time they spend collecting firewood. They can use the cookers to cook food, dry food and boil water, the last being particularly important for people who are HIV positive.

People who are HIV positive need to be very careful about how they live their lives, what they eat and drink, what dangers they may be exposing themselves to. Their immune system is damaged by HIV and, even though many are on treatment, they still have to be careful. It is hoped that one more way of pasteurising water will be of great help in reducing exposure to diarrhoea and other water borne diseases.

Today, my colleague and I went to a support group at the camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) just outside town. People there are just trying to get by, some doing well, some not so well. We were accompanied by a woman who works for an agency that gives microloans to help people set up small businesses. Hopefully, they will see the benefits of solar cooking and, if they can come up with the money, also buy some cookers. And maybe some of them will want to take things further and use the cookers to produce something they can cook and sell.

That's the hope, anyhow. I'll write up what happens here, even if it shatters my heartfelt beliefs!


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